Ties that bind: Governmentality, the state, and asylum in contemporary Ireland

Abstract. Coinciding with the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom of the 1990s, Ireland experienced a momentous shift in long-standing patterns of migration, with significant in-migration and an unprecedented change in population dynamics. Asylum seekers form a small and noteworthy group within the population in association with several recent legislative changes. In 2003 a previously granted guarantee of residency rights for so-called ‘non-national’ migrant parents whose children were born in Ireland was withdrawn; subsequently, in 2004 voters endorsed a referendum doing away with the Irish Constitution’s provision for birthright citizenship. With this, many asylum seekers and their children who were born in Ireland were excluded from the possibility of establishing intimate ties within society and to the state. This social context forms the backdrop for examining the intersections between governmentality and the intimate ties between populations and nation-state. Drawing on recent attention to Foucault’s lectures on Security, Territory, Population, three specifics themes are elaborated; these are: (i) government as a continuum of overlapping apparatuses; (ii) intersections between sovereign territory and population; and (iii) the question of the state in Foucault’s work. These themes are elucidated with reference to housing policies, living conditions, and newsprint discourses that prevailed upon women asylum seekers in particular prior to Ireland’s 2004 citizenship referendum. The associated unraveling and rearrangement of governmental practices and rejigging of the Irish State highlights some of the ways intimacy and population are tangled together as populations are produced.

<< Back